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Highlights

In fiscal year 2004, the Medicaid program financed about $93 billion for long-term care services. To qualify for Medicaid, individuals' assets (income and resources) must be below certain limits. Because long-term care services can be costly, those who pay privately may quickly deplete their assets and become eligible for Medicaid. In some cases, individuals might transfer assets to spouses or other family members to become financially eligible for Medicaid. Those who transfer assets for less than fair market value may be subject to a penalty period that can delay their eligibility for Medicaid. GAO was asked to provide data on transfers of assets. GAO reviewed (1) the level of assets held and transferred by the elderly, (2) methods used to transfer assets that may result in penalties, (3) how states determined financial eligibility for Medicaid long-term care, and (4) guidance the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided states regarding the treatment of asset transfers. GAO analyzed data on levels of assets and cash transfers made by the elderly from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national panel survey; analyzed states' Medicaid applications; and interviewed officials from nine states about their eligibility determination processes.

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